MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

A Scorsese Love Poem and Unmade Movies

Scorsese the Underdog

I haven’t seen Shutter Island yet, although it seems like the rest of the film community has.  That’s fine by me since I wouldn’t want to see it any other way than on Friday afternoon with a crowd full of film fans, rather than a screening room full of critics.  Seeing The Departed on an early Friday morning the day it came out was one of the best film experiences I’ve ever had; the whole crowd was just with.  There was even a homeless man, complete with a shopping cart full of empty bottles and cans that he set to the side, sitting down and munching his popcorn in the front row.  That’s New York City, for you, even the homeless come out to support the new Scorsese film…

Anyway, it got me thinking that Martin Scorsese might actually be underappreciated.  “What?” you say, “How can that be?” you ask.  I think he’s been justifiably lauded over the years for his impressive resume, his incredible attention to detail and is regarded as one of the finest film historians we have.  But, quite frankly, I think we all take him for granted a little bit.  While film nerds wet themselves over the fact that James Cameron – a true visionary, don’t get me wrong – released Avatar, I don’t understand why there isn’t similar excitement for the latest Scorsese picture.  I’m not getting the sense that there is a palpable buzz.

What really bothers me is that most people think of Scorsese as merely a “gangster” filmmaker.  First of all, Goodfellas and Casino are two of the best films to ever inhabit the genre, so it’s not like he’s merely made a few gangster films.  Second of all, even if you include The Departed and Gangs of New York, the vast majority of his films are about so much more than that.  The Last Temptation of Christ is one of the most spiritual and moving films I’ve ever seen; Kundun falls into that category as well.  And I happen to think of After Hours as a bit of a spiritual/existential meditation.  So, I suppose I could just as easily call Scorsese a “religious” filmmaker.  The bottom line is that he’s not someone that can be easily pigeonholed.

I recently re-watched The Age of Innocence for the tenth or eleventh time and it’s probably my favorite Scorsese film.  It’s the best evidence that the man, while being one of the most singular voices in American film, is capable of being a chameleon.  His camera movements in the film, the long sweeping shots in the party scenes, is one of the few indicators that we’re watching a Scorsese picture.  But, the man is also an auteur and he puts his stamp on that film.  The other film in his filmography that I think The Age of Innocence most resembles is, oddly enough, Raging Bull.  They are both the stories of men filled with emotions; one expresses them through punches and the other one suppresses it.  Both men wind up miserable.  Thematically, both are stories about how we punish ourselves.

Scorsese is one of the few living masters of cinema and his latest film is being treated as just another February release that just so happens to star Leonardo DiCaprio.  He got a write-up in the New York Times and a few other outlets have come out with their own half-hearted Scorsese pieces.  But nothing really has explained to the people that no matter if it’s as terrible as Bringing Out the Dead, this is important cinema. I recently saw someone describe the film as being something like Scorsese’s The Shining.  I mean, holy shit, how does that not get you completely geeked out as a film nerd?

Unmade Movies

I haven’t seen Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman yet.  It doesn’t have to do as much with who diddirect it as much as who didn’t.  The original director, Mark Romanek, left the project four weeks before shooting, which is when any excitement I had for the project disappeared.  Nothing against Johnston, but he’s not the visionary that Romanek is.  Based on not just his debut feature, One Hour Photo, but his beautiful collection of music videos, it’s clear that Romanek has an interesting point of view, one that would make his direction of an Andrew Kevin Walker script of The Wolfman a film that I would put on my must-see list.  But, alas, it didn’t work out that way and so instead of showing up on opening weekend, I’m content to wait a week or two.

This was certainly not the first time I’ve had an experience like this.  A few years ago, I was unbelievably excited to see David Fincher’s Lords of Dogtown based on a script by Roger Avary.  What we wound up getting was Catherine Hardwicke’s Lords of Dogtown based on a script by Stacy Peralta.  I thought the idea of making a fictionalized version of events that we’d seen in a stellar documentary might be unnecessary, but with Fincher attached, I knew it would probably be breathtaking.  There were a lot of good things in Hardwicke’s picture, most of them due to the presence of Emile Hirsch as Jay Adams, who was so full of vitality and charisma that it was difficult not to be awed by what he was doing.

But, I couldn’t help but think of what the picture could have been. Jay Adams was 12 years old when he started out, younger than the rest of the kids in the Z-Boys by a few years.  And the documentary shows us that he was a little smart-ass and prankster.  I loved Hirsch’s performance, but he was too old to play Jay Adams by at least four years.  I feel like if Fincher had directed the film, he would have hewed more closely to the facts.  I imagine it would be something akin to what he did with the Bay Area in Zodiac, only with Venice Beach skateboarding in the 70s.

Fincher’s Lords of Dogtown is one of my most recent most disappointing unmade films.  What are yours?

Noah Forrest
February 15, 2010

Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon